What Does "Advanced" Mean In Yoga?

Jamie Silverstein
What Does "Advanced" Mean In Yoga?

I have a confession to make. Although I teach yoga, I am not an asana junkie. I much prefer a long Savasana or Pigeon to—well—pretty much anything. And, while I'd love to float into a Handstand, I'm seldom willing to work for it. Still somehow, I do not suck. I practice yoga.

In Defense of 'Advanced' Asana

And yet, asana matters. Very much. While achieving a handstand does not score me any yogi points (are you listening, Instagram?), the practice of disciplining my body and challenging the stale, limited beliefs in my mind is profound.

Simply, we do not handstand to handstand; we handstand to understand we are more capable than our mind says we are.

What Asana Means

When I practice yoga, I always remind myself that asana is a means, not an end. Simply, the asana is the hammer that helps me (re)build the sweet structure of my being; I need the hammer for construction, but the hammer does not define me.

I am not a better or worse person because of a physical shape I can or cannot make with my body. (Trust me, I know quite a few meanies with killer 'advanced' asana!)

We heal ourselves with understanding. This is why asana matters. In my experience, asana is one of the best ways to challenge faulty thought-loops, by providing counterpoint to the mind through functional, embodied understanding. Simply, asana forces us to confront our relationship to our mental limitations.

I am better by understanding how I falsely limit myself. I am better by valuing the insight of my body. I am better by allowing myself to grow.

Remember, ultimately, the most 'advanced' thing we can practice is (to borrow from Manorma) being.